In our program we are raising rare heritage breed rabbits that are listed with the Livestock Conservancy. They are typically the larger breeds weighing more than 8 pounds at maturity. And over the years I've spent a lot of time around young rabbits and it's delightful to watch them eat. Nom nom nom -- I love their tiny little tongues licking their lips and their chunky round warm bellies full of milk. Then around six to eight weeks they are mostly eating grass/hay and weaning off e super nutritious milk. Believe it or not, rabbit milk has been found to have the highest amount of protein of all mammals. The momma bunny feeds the babies just a few minutes a day when they return to their nests. (Believe it not, a lactation specialist actually studied this and Smithsonian magazine published the results in 2015. HA!) Each species has a special concoction of fats, proteins and carbohydrates that are essential for development and for fighting off harmful microbes. A perfectly-designed perfect balance of nutrients.
Hooded seal mothers produce the fattiest known milk with 60% fat to help babies born in freezing waters or the arctic that eat every four days and are double their weight at weaning because of the thick blubber insulation layer. (Human breastmilk has about three to five percent fat in it). Black rhinoceros has the most skim milk with .2% fat and the rest mostly water. They reach maturity around four years old then spend one year in gestation and almost two years nursing. Scientists found that species who nurse for longer periods have lower fat and protein, which makes sense because of the demand on the mom's body and diet to sustain that amount of milk creation. Tammar wallaby joeys, drink the sweetest milk with 14% oligosaccharide sugar, roughly double the amount of lactose present in human milk. Ready for a real wow? Many marsupials, or pouched mammals, feed different milk to multiple aged joeys. The mother could be suckling an older joey from one nipple with lots of fat and protein and an infant joey still in her pouch from another nipple that is high in carbohydrates.
Pig milk and cow milk have similar amounts of proteins and sugars. So why do we drink cow milk? Sows have 14 small teats that eject milk in bursts that only last up to a minute, compared with the four large nipples on a cow's udder where they store larger quantities and can eject milk continuously for several minutes at a time. So it first comes down to practicality of processing, but for $1200/pound you can buy a pig cheese from the Netherlands that reportedly tastes saltier and creamier than traditional cow’s milk cheese. Who knew?
It's all about balance. The right amount of nutrients, microbes, water. Just what they need.
As the babies wean they try to figure out how much to eat -- nibble here, nibble there on different grasses and hays we provide. How much of the pellets to eat. How much water to drink out of the dish. How much milk to still drink. Some get bloated from not getting it right.
I've been thinking a lot about balance. I'm a teen, so it feels like I'm eating constantly and wishing I were eating any moment that I'm not eating. I'm a teen, so I'm also loving my bed more than I can remember. Oh and then I still need to do school work, farm chores, and keep up with business responsibilities. It's suddenly more of a challenge.
I'm sharing that not for sympathy but for epiphany. I believe God created us with balance, providing everything we need. I still find the need to zone out and play with Legos on my floor. Yes. It's true. But my legs fall asleep if I'm down there too long. And I love to hang out with neighbor friends -- until we drive each other crazy. And I need to get outside, breathe in fresh air and absorb Vitamin D -- without getting burned. Just like so many other things, all good things in the right balance. And then there are things like flaky coconut shrimp on the grill or cherry cheesecake... Just like the babies, gotta find the right amount.
This weekend sitting on the shore of Peacebunny Island with Huck hopping up next to me I was reminded of my the wisdom nugget passed down to me: God made us human BEINGS not human DOINGS. The need to do nothing. The need to just breathe and listen to the water. The need to be alone with my thoughts. I was reminded that my success is not measured by the tufts of leaves but by the fruit of the spirit in my life, like a vegetable that may not be seen below the surface.
When I'm my grandpa's age, I want to be able to look back and hold up a few simple measuring sticks for whether I've been a success:
Did my journey and its lessons lead me to become a better version of myself?
Did I genuinely are for and bring out the best in the people who were on the journey with me?
Did my work help make the world better in some significant way?
Did I take good care of what God entrusted to me, and did I follow His instructions for how things work?
Did I help create a kinder and more loving world?
So I'm holding up the mirror to my life today and looking for more balance to help ensure that I can keep moving forward and keep look back and always say "YES."
Thankful for friends along the journey who are also striving for balance, helping all of us become more successful in the things that matter below the surface.